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Newen expelled from indies group over TF1 talks

French producers association USPA has unanimously decided to exclude Newen Group and its subsidiaries Telfrance, Barjac Production and Télécip from the organisation over its proposed sale to commercial broadcaster TF1.

TF1 CEO Nonce Paolini

TF1 CEO Nonce Paolini

The exclusive acquisition talks announced between TF1 and French indie group Newen, which produces key drama titles including France 3’s daily drama Plus Belle la Vie and Canal+’s thriller Braquo, have sparked furious dialogue in France, and ultimately caused the latter’s ejection from the industry group.

The proposed TF1-Newen deal has already seen pubcaster France Télévisions say it will no longer work with the production group on new projects.

Newen’s expulsion from USPA represents the first time any of the body’s 150 members have experienced that fate.

In a statement, USPA said that a TF1-backed Newen was at odds with its principles as an industry group for independents. “Such an operation is in total contradiction with the values defended by the association and the indie producers it represents,” it said.

Talking about “loyalty towards partners” USPA indirectly referred to the fact that Newen hadn’t informed France Télévisions, its main client, before inking an alliance with competitor TF1.

USPA urged the French government to preserve the independence of the French production sector and rapidly redefine the rules in the relationships between producers and broadcasters. “It seems necessary to strengthen guarantees agreed to broadcasters for them to exploit the content and brands they co-finance,” the group said.

Other professional associations such as independent producers and authors organisations SPI, SACD and La Guilde des Scénaristes have also reacted negatively to a Newen-TF1 deal.

While the French Ministry of Culture is currently working to renew the production rules and definitions and adapt them to today’s TV market, government culture minister Fleur Pellerin has, paradoxically, hailed the Newen-TF1 operation as being in line with her ambition to see “emergence French champions” in the content sector. “Big is beautiful,” she said.

Speaking yesterday at a professional meeting organised by consultancy and research company NPA, France Télévisions’ president Delphine Ernotte said the pubcaster “could make 25% of [its programmes] in-house [versus 5% now] like private broadcasters, and hold guaranteed rights to the programmes it buys.”

Plus Belle la Vie, which France Télévisions has funded for ten years, legally belongs to Newen, but I don’t see why we can’t say it also belongs to France Télévisions,” she added.

The France Télévisions’ president was the first to publicly condemn the Newen-TF1 operation and to announce it was suspending all developments and projects with the group. Last Friday, M6 CEO Nicolas de Tavernost also decided to temporarily stop a drama project with Newen.

At NPA’s convention yesterday, outgoing TF1 CEO Nonce Paolini intimated that he hoped the Newen acquisition would be finalised before the end of this year after it received the green light from the French Competition Authority.

Asked for a comment, Newen told TBI: “Directors and producers at our subsidiaries have no comment to make about the current situation.”

Employees from the Newen companies Capa, Neria Presse and 17 Juin Media, which became part of the group last March, did, however, voice concern.

A joint statement revealed they feared the TF1-Newen deal might “threaten the future of their productions for public service [organisations]”, but also their work for other broadcasters like Canal+, M6 and Arte.

They added that they want to “work with all the actors in the French market, either public or private”.